The Coronavirus Pandemic has disrupted but not stopped Iran’s proxy war machine. More than 14,000 have been infected and over 1,000 fatalities caused by the spread of the novel virus in Iran. Among those infected and fatalities were several IRGC senior officers, a Senior Ayatollah and a key adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei. Conspicuous by their absence have been Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani. Iran has not adopted a disciplined approach to control the community spread of the novel and deadly virus. As Lebanon is also afflicted with the coronavirus, amid a roiling economic crisis, it has announced that it will be locked down for two weeks, effectively barring travel from several countries in the Gulf region, notably Iran, The contrast is with what Israel has done to defend against the novel virus. It has implemented a partial lockdown, called up reservists in its Medical Corps to bolster its health system. Meanwhile an advanced medical research center in northern Galilee appears to have a running start on development of a promising vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus based on transfer from infected poultry to humans. Despite the onslaught of the coronavirus, Iran’s Shiite proxies in Iraq, were engaged in a rocket war with US and coalition forces bases north and south of Baghdad. It is the continuing revenge campaign by the Shiite Popular Mobilization Force Kataib Hezbollah militia, whose commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was killed in a US drone hellfire missile attack in late December 2019 that also took out the late Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. The revenge campaign began with the January 8, 2020 Iranian short-range precision ballistic missile attack on the al Asad airbase in Western Iraq that injured dozens of US personnel. Last week witnessed a series of Katyusha and Grad rocket attacks on El Taji and Bismayah coalition bases in Iraq resulting in killing of US and UK soldiers and contractors and injuring Iraqi air defense soldiers and Polish NATO trainers. These attacks brought a warning from US Defense Secretary Esper followed by launch of US coalition air attacks on Kataib Hezbollah weapons facilities that produced casualties, among them suspected IRGC officers and Shiite proxy fighters. Following these attacks, the US announced it was rushing Patriot air defense batteries to these bases that may not be effective against short range rocket, mortar and missile threats. The US Army has yet to deploy the two Iron Dome batteries it purchased from Israel’s Rafael Industries that could address this rocket threat. This conundrum about the gap in US short range rocket defense prompted Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant and Jerry Gordon to bring back Dr. Stephen Bryen for wide ranging discussions about the lack of an adequate US defense against Iran and proxy precision rockets and missile, Turkey’s surprising armed drones used in Syria armed with Umtas or Mizrak missiles similar to Israel’s Spike missile . We also addressed the conflicted relations between Turkey’s Erdogan and Russia’s Putin, backer of the Assad Regime, in the battle for geo-political dominance in Syria and in Libya. Dr. Bryen is a former Reagan era Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for technical security, a noted Military Technologist and Asia Times Columnist. US Army “Cancellation” of the Israeli Iron Dome system. Bryen considers it both “incomprehensible and irresponsible” the US Army canceling the acquisition of additional Iron Dome batteries for base defense in the Middle East. He contends that deploying the Patriot batteries would be like launching a “$1 million missile to take down the equivalent of a $1,000 rocket”. He considers the alleged explanation for the cancellation that Rafael Industries refusal to supply the source codes as questionable as it is not required for integration of Iron Dome in a US layered defense system. He speculates that perhaps Raytheon, a partner in the development of Iron Dome- it supplies the sensors for the Tamir interceptors – might be angling to convince the Army to develop a competitive system. Bryen noted that Raytheon was involved in the lobbying effort with the Army that ended the billion-dollar MEADS international development program. Michael Peck writing in The National Interest blog, “Israel’s Iron Dome system has cracked” noted comments in Congressional testimony of General John Murray of the Army Future Command: “A top U.S. Army general told Congress that Iron Dome can’t be integrated into the Army’s new Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) air and missile defense system”. “Despite Army protests, Congress in 2019 mandated the Army buy two Iron Dome batteries. But in February 2020, General John Murray, chief of Army Futures Command, told the House Armed Services Committee that Iron Dome was not compatible with IBCS. “It took us longer to acquire those two batteries than we would have liked for a lot of different reasons,” Murray testified. “We believe we cannot integrate them into our air defense system based upon some interoperability challenges, some cyber [security] challenges, and some other challenges. So, what we ended up having is two stand-alone batteries that will be very capable, but they cannot be integrated.” “My assessment right now is, it would be — and I hate to ever use the word ‘impossible’ — but exceptionally difficult to integrate Iron Dome into our layered air defense architecture [and] to get Iron Dome talk to other systems, other radars, specifically the Sentinel radar,” Murray told a reporter for Breaking Defense. “What you’re probably — almost certainly – going to see is two standalone systems, and if the best we can do is standalone systems, we do not want to buy another two batteries.” Peck noted the rebuttal to General Murray’s Armed Services Congressional testimony by Army Space and Missile Command chief Lt. General Karbler: “Yet other U.S. commanders seem to wish they could have more Iron Domes, after pro-Iranian militias in Iraq killed two Americans and one Briton in a rocket attack on Camp Taji, Iraq, on March 11th. “We know that Iron Dome has a combat-proven capability,” Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, head of Army Space and Missile Defense Command told Army Times. “I’ve got to assume that it would have worked, given it was in the optimal state of readiness as well as positioned to defend that particular asset.” “The more interesting question is what this means for missile defense overall. Whatever its merits or flaws, Iron Dome is the most combat-tested defense system of its kind. It has become the poster child for missile defense, offering the dream that soldiers and civilians can be protected not just from ICBMs, but also from tactical rockets and mortar shells”. Given the Grad and Kaytusha rocket attacks on US coalition bases in Iraq cited by General Karbler, Bryen’s criticism warrants Congressional Armed Services Committee oversight hearings on why Iron Dome batteries were not deployed to deal with the lethal threats of Iran’s Iraqi Shiite proxies.
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